Quick tip: How to start any Windows app with a keyboard shortcut

Few people know that Windows allows users to start their favorite apps using keyboard shortcuts. You can use predefined keyboard shortcuts to launch both desktop apps and apps from the Microsoft Store. Or, you can use your custom keyboard shortcuts, to start any app you want. This can be done using built-in features of Windows, without using third-party apps. If you are curious or you need to run apps using keyboard shortcuts, read this guide:

1. Pin any app to the Windows taskbar and start it with a keyboard shortcut

This trick works in Windows 10, Windows 7, and Windows 8.1, both with desktop apps as well as apps from the Microsoft Store. First, you have to pin the app that you want to start with a keyboard shortcut, to the taskbar. To do that, right-click on the app shortcut, and click or tap “Pin to taskbar” or More, followed by “Pin to taskbar,” depending on where you are and what Windows version you use.

Things are explained in more detail here: The complete guide to personalizing the taskbar in Windows 10. If you are using Windows 8.1, this guide can help: How to Pin & Display Modern Windows 8.1 Apps on the Taskbar.

Once the apps that interest you are pinned to the taskbar, you can open them by pressing the Windows key along with the number corresponding to the app shortcut on your taskbar. For example, in the screenshot below, we have pinned the following apps: Netflix, Google Chrome, VLC Media Player, and Steam.

To start them, we press:

  • Windows + 1 for Netflix
  • Windows + 2 for Google Chrome
  • Windows + 3 for VLC Media Player
  • Windows + 4 for Steam

You can do this with the first nine apps that are pinned to the taskbar, each getting their number from 1 to 9, based on their position.

2. Create a shortcut to the app and change its properties, so that you start it with a custom keyboard shortcut

If you prefer to use a custom keyboard shortcut for starting an app, you need a shortcut for that app. You can create one yourself or you can use one from your desktop. If you need help with creating a shortcut, read this tutorial: How to create shortcuts for apps, files, folders and web pages in Windows.

After you have the shortcut, right-click or press and hold on it. In the right-click menu, choose Properties. You can also select the shortcut and press ALT + Enter on your keyboard, to achieve the same result.

In the shortcut’s properties, go to the Shortcut tab, and find the field named “Shortcut key.” There you should see no keyboard shortcut. Click this field and then press the keyboard shortcut that you want to use. For example, we pressed CTRL+ALT+C, to start Google Chrome.

When done, click or tap OK to save your settings. Next, press the keyboard shortcut that you have assigned to the app, and test how it works.

This keyboard shortcut stays valid as long as you do not delete the shortcut whose properties you have changed. As soon as you delete it, the keyboard shortcut becomes inactive. If you want to revert your changes, edit the same shortcut and, in the “Shortcut key” field, press Backspace, to delete the existing keyboard shortcut.

3. Edit the shortcut from the Start Menu and change its properties, so that you start it with a custom keyboard shortcut (Windows 7 only)

This trick works only in Windows 7. If the app that you are interested in has a shortcut in the Start Menu, find it and right-click on it. In the menu that is displayed, click Properties.

Go to the Shortcut tab, and find the “Shortcut key” field. Click this field and then press the keyboard shortcut that you want to use. For example, we pressed CTRL+ALT+F, to start Mozilla Firefox.

To apply your changes, press OK. Press the keyboard shortcut that you have assigned to the app, and test how it works. If you want to revert your changes, edit the same shortcut and, in the “Shortcut key” field, press Backspace, to delete the existing keyboard shortcut.

Which method are you using to start Windows apps with keyboard shortcuts?

Now you know several ways for starting Windows apps of any kind, using keyboard shortcuts. Test them out and let us know which method you prefer. How many apps do you start using your preferred method? Comment below and let’s discuss.